The reasons used to justify rolling back fuel efficiency standards are hilarious and specious

old car
CC BY 2.0 John Lloyd/ Tougher CAFE standards keep more of these on the road

TreeHugger previously wrote about how the EPA and the administration were going to roll back scheduled increases in fuel efficiency agreed to by the auto makers and the Obama administration. But they cannot do this by fiat (not the car company), they have to come up with justifications. These were just released in The Safer and Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles Proposed Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 and really, if they were not so awful and dangerous, they would be hilarious. You really can't make this stuff up.

Brad Plumer of the New York Times did a great deconstruction of the problems with the justification of the changes.

Better fuel efficiency means people will drive more, meaning more people will die in crashes.

This is something we have discussed many times; the "rebound effect" where greater efficiency means people can drive further for the same money. In fact, what we have seen is that instead, they buy bigger SUVs and pickups, which are less efficient, which is why the CAFE regulations are such a problem for the car manufacturers in the first place.

More efficient cars cost more, so people will not buy new cars with more safety features and more will die in crashes.

Or, people might vote with their wallets and buy smaller, more efficient cars instead of bigger, more efficient cars. But wait:

Tighter fuel economy cars are lighter, less capable of withstanding crashes, so more people will die.

This is the most ridiculous of them all. If every car is lighter, then there is greater balance between the big ones and the little ones. Plumer writes:

Experts who have looked at this question have developed a rule of thumb: If automakers are mainly reducing the weight of their largest vehicles, like S.U.V.s and pickup trucks, then that makes the roads safer overall. But if manufacturers were to focus more on reducing the weight of their smallest passenger cars, that could be worse for overall auto safety, since those cars would be more vulnerable in crashes with bigger vehicles.

The administration is searching for arguments to help the auto makers keep selling their pickups and SUVs, which is what they requested in the first place. They should have been careful what they wished for.


Carol Lee Rawn of consultancy Ceres notes:

Major investors and businesses understand that rolling back the Corporate Average Fuel Economy and emissions standards will undermine the global competitiveness of the U.S. auto industry at a time when the rest of the world is moving in the opposite direction, responding to consumer demand for affordable clean cars that save them money.

It is all so silly. The CAFE standards were not nearly tough enough to make a serious difference; rolling them back locks the USA into its own world of gas guzzling giants. Fortunately, the reasons for changing them are so specious that they probably will never survive a court challenge.

The reasons used to justify rolling back fuel efficiency standards are hilarious and specious
Is anyone actually going to believe this?

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